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Angelo George, CEO, Bisleri InternationalBI India
Bisleri has received an overwhelming response to its direct-to-home offering
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Our mineral water goes through a 10 Step Quality Process and 114 tests to ensure safety: Angelo George, CEO, Bisleri International

Bisleri has received an overwhelming response to its direct-to-home offering
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  • While safety was always important for the brand, it has now put in place additional safety procedures at its manufacturing facilities including ozone tunnels for disinfecting employees, among other things.
  • The brand is also focusing on its direct-to-home offering. It also launched its e-commerce platform to improve accessibility to consumers.
  • Angelo George, CEO, Bisleri International tells us all that the brand has been doing to make sure it is able to deliver safe drinking water to its consumers, while ensuring its employees are safe too.
Before the pandemic hit us, the bottled water industry in India had been seeing a healthy 20% growth and was expected to reach Rs 403.06 billion by the end of 2023, according to a report by Research and Markets. However, as the lockdown has led to the closure of offices and most public spaces, the industry has been hit.

With hotels, restaurants and cafes (HoReCa) businesses majorly affected and there being no clarity as to when things will get back to normal, with demand coming back, the bottled water industry has also hit a major roadblock. However, one trend that the industry has been witnessing is an increase in the demand for mineral water in homes.

With more and more people staying back home and becoming increasingly conscious about what they consume, more people are ordering mineral water for even home consumption.

We recently spoke to Angelo George, CEO, Bisleri International, who told us that the pandemic has made them focus on their digital presence. The brand is now connecting with consumers digitally and also working hard to facilitate supply even in locations with travel constraints or for places within containment zones.

While sanitation and hygiene has also been always critical for the brand, now its mineral water goes through 10 Step Quality Process & 114 tests to ensure safety.

Excerpts:

Q) We are living in unprecedented times today. How challenging were the initial lockdown days for Bisleri as a brand?

The initial stage of the lockdown was quite challenging as processes related to operating permissions for factories, passes for people and finished goods movement were being put into place. It was a time that tested the resilience of the supply chain, distribution network and our ability to adapt and respond dynamically to constraints that were evolving almost on a daily basis.

We transitioned to a remote working environment in offices, and yet had to keep our operations running strong. We worked closely with all stakeholders to sustain production and distribution despite constraints. In many states, the Government officials were helpful in facilitating permissions considering that we were classified in the essential services.

In spite of all the challenges, the supplies were maintained across all markets, and we ensured consumers had access to safe mineral water. Our sales teams took appropriate safety precautions, braved the risks and delivered Bisleri mineral water to the doorsteps of consumers.

Q) Is your supply chain up and running completely?

Yes absolutely. In fact we have streamlined our supply chain in response to the growing at home demand for mineral water and other fruit based fizzy drinks. We understood the challenges consumers were facing on ground on account of lockdown and enhanced our servicing ability through direct home delivery. We are working hand-in-hand with our distribution partners who have supported us despite immense challenges on ground. We are connecting with consumers through digital platforms and are facilitating supply even in those locations with travel constraints or are even within containment zones. Most importantly, Bisleri has over 135 manufacturing plants across the country which enables us to service our consumers across all parts of the country.

Q) What kind of business impact has the lockdown had on Bisleri? Is there a hope of recovering this year?

The segments that are mainly affected are those related to ‘Out of home consumption’ – Horeca, Offices, Entertainment & Travel which contributes a significant share of our business. Offices and shops will gradually start to open up but will take time to become fully active. However, there has been a clear surge in the consumption of mineral water at homes, and this is primarily led by the large packs.

Q) People will now be doubly more cognizant about hygiene. How are you making your factories and thereby your products safer?

The hygiene and safety norms at our manufacturing units were always in place. Our production and packaging is completely contactless and our mineral water goes through 10 Step Quality Process & 114 tests to ensure that every consumer receives the same pure, safe and healthy drinking water.

In light of Covid we have put additional safety procedures at our manufacturing facilities including ozone tunnels for disinfecting employees in the light of COVID. All distribution vehicles are washed externally with soap & sprayed internally with IPA to sanitize after each trip. We have provided protective gear to delivery teams including Gloves, Masks and Sanitizers and have instituted processes to ensure safety for themselves and for consumers and trade.

Q) As a leader, what were your learnings from this time?

This crisis has no doubt been one the most difficult phases but it has also been an opportunity for me to take more risks, think beyond the limits, work with my team even more closely and lead with a purpose to cater to the needs of the consumers, who have made Bisleri one of the most trusted brands in India.

Q) You have recently partnered with Dunzo and Zomato to strengthen your direct to home strategy. How else do you plan to reach your consumers? Will partnerships like this become normal for you in the new world order?

The demand for mineral water is increasing and to cater to this demand we have formed strategic partnerships with delivery providers like Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo and OwO across cities to leverage their reach. Bisleri itself has a very strong distribution network and we have streamlined it to enable Bisleri@Doorstep, an ecom portal to ensure delivery service encouraging consumers to stay at home and order their requirements online.

Q) You have launched a D2C campaign called Bisleri@Doorstep where consumers can place orders directly by calling customer service number or by visiting your website. Do you think it will still take people some time to get used to the idea of ordering for water online? How are you planning to bring about this behavioural change?

On account of lockdown, there were heavy restrictions imposed on movement of people and consumers were facing many challenges in accessing even basic needs like safe drinking water. We shouldn’t forget that there is great emphasis on hydration as a critical aspect for building immunity. In our commitment to fulfill the increasing demand for safe and healthy drinking water, we introduced the direct-to-home approach where consumers across cities could opt to order directly by contacting Bisleri’s customer care toll free number or sending in their requirement through the website. We received an overwhelming response from the consumers and were able to supply in areas where even shops providing essential items were closed. Consumers have placed enormous trust on Bisleri as a brand and we were able to respond to their expectations with our service reassurance.

As part of the larger initiative, we were also educating consumers about how hydration plays a key role in keeping one healthy and boosting immunity. Minerals and trace elements in water is also essential for health which one may not find in tap water or commonly used purification methods like RO & UV purifiers.

Q) You have enabled your own e-commerce platform. Was this done specifically during and due to the lockdown? What kind of uptake have you seen on the website? What kind of push do you plan to give to the platform?

Consumer behaviour has undergone a dramatic change with the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is a heightened concern on safety and health.We have gathered valuable consumer insights to develop appropriate offerings.

We were always planning to launch our e-commerce platform but with the current situation and the constraints faced by consumers, the team turned things around very quickly to launch it well in time. With social-distancing becoming the new norm, there was a shift to online shopping and digital platforms even in the groceries and beverages categories. Through our latest offering, we want to offer convenience to consumers to access a range of Bisleri products, avail discounts and sign up for weekly and monthly subscriptions to get hassle free uninterrupted supplies.